Calvary Memorial Church, where I have the pleasure to contribute as one of the pastoral team members, has been studying the doctrine of Creation during the month of June. Part of the impetus of this study is the John Stott award that our church received from the Carl Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. One of the community engagement initiatives that we undertook with this study was to offer a workshop where three of our pastors presented their views on science and faith. Pastor Todd Wilson, Pastor Gerald Hiestand, and me presented views on the doctrine of creation. Pastor Todd presented his view from the standpoint of a theistic evolutionist. Pastor Gerald presented his view from the standpoint of a patient, investigative but noncommittal view. I presented my view against evolution (of any sort) and for creation.
Each of these views was designed to foster empathy for real people we know in our congregation. There are a number of people that have accepted the evidence of evolution and are doing their best to integrate a view of creationism along with a view of evolution. This is who Todd represented. A number of people are not ready to commit to evolution and yet they see the compelling evidence of it, so are not so entrenched against evolution. Gerald, who really took the more difficult position, was tasked to represent this view, as one who recognizes the concerns of creationists but also see the compelling evidence of evolution. Thus, is uncertain of what view to take and is willing to patiently wait things out until more definitive evidence comes to light. My task was to represent, in an irenic and intellectually compelling manner, those who are more steadfastly in opposition to evolution. Because I approached my argument in a non-traditional way, I thought it might be helpful to make my case, cleverly entitled “Contra Evolution,” available for any interested reader.
The format for, what we called the “Mere Creation Workshop,” was that each person presented his view in about 7 minutes and then each person presented on what they felt was at stake if we get the doctrine of creation wrong. The whole conversation was moderated by Rob Barrett (PhD in Physics, Stanford; PhD in Old Testament, University of Durham) from the organization The Colossian Forum—an organization that fosters charitable dialogue on doctrinal issues in the church. My colleagues each gave admirable presentations and responses to the question of “What is at stake?” Unfortunately, I can’t make their material available, but I can share my own argument. After each pastor stated his position and response to the question “What is at stake?” attendants had the opportunity to reflect on their own position, share their view at a round-table discussion with other attendants, and then publicly share reflections to the three presenters, who in turn, were able to build on and respond to any thoughts or questions shared. This was an enjoyable workshop, and it was an excellent way to demonstrate to a church congregation how to have a civil and robust dialogue on important matters of doctrine where differences clearly exist. What follows is my presentation and my response to the question of “What’s at stake.” You may access the .pdf of this presentation through Academia.edu here.
Before I launch into my argument, I’d like to make a couple opening remarks. First, it’s an extreme pleasure to pastor at Calvary along with these two colleagues and to sit under the preaching of Pastor Todd, especially during these last weeks of exploring the doctrine of creation. Second, I adamantly submit that there is no doubt in my mind that Todd, Gerald, and I submit to the Rule of Faith, namely the assertions found in both the Apostles and Nicene Creed. In addition, it’s clear that all three of us work diligently to construct our exegesis of Scripture and theology of Scripture with the Scripture Rule in mind—we put the interpretation of Scripture by other Scripture in the place of first order for the development of doctrine. This means that none of us—Todd, Gerald, or I—operate from a dangerous place of heterodoxy, nor do any one of us risk undermining Scripture’s authority or the integrity of the Creator by our individual expressions of the doctrine of creation.
Nonetheless, we differ in our view on science and faith, and it is worthwhile for each of us to share those differing views magnanimously and with deference towards one another. Permit me now to state my reservations concerning evolution of every sort. These reservations fall under two particular heads, partially because I imagine seven minutes really only allows for two arguments. Many other very good arguments might be levied, but I find that these two arguments are especially intriguing and compelling.
My argument is that evolution and creation are mutually exclusive systems according to their philosophical and linguistical outworkings. To try to reconcile the two, puts one on the horns of a dilemma where one would not find a home in and be fully accepted by either community. That person is then self-selected out of both communities, and in turn, ultimately becomes extinct, pun intended.
Evolution is built on six sine qua nons. They are the following: 1) all organic life has a common ancestor, 2) all deviation of organic life into individual species is the result of 3) random genetic variation (commonly referred to as mutation) 4) which took place gradually over long periods of time (generations of time), these changes serve to help the species 5) adapt for survival. Traditional evolution asserts that all changes are 6) undirected. These are the fundamental premises of evolution. To negotiate a different definition, for instance, to proffer that these processes are directed is to create a distinct system. Both theistic evolution and neo-evolution attempt to re-negotiate this definition but for different reasons. I believe that those who assert creationism should reject the language game of evolution if they are unable to affirm all six of these sine qua nons. My later argument on “what’s at stake” will expose the risk of modifying this definition to foster the idea of directed evolutionary processes.
The process of evolution philosophically elevates the virtue of power above all other virtues. The dominant species, the one in the position of power, because of its superior adaptation to its ecological surroundings, is not fundamentally concerned with the protection of other species. It may not even be concerned with the protection of others within its own species. Rather, each individual animal within this system is concerned with its own survival, and each one will do what’s necessary to assure its own survival.
Fundamentally, evolution is not a system that is concerned with flourishing. Instead it is concerned with consumption and colonization. If you carry anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or get irritated with red or black ants in your yard, you’re actually feeling the real dissonance that you ought to have towards evolution. You should be weary that you, as a human being, sit on the cusp of being culpable for the role humanity plays in this system. In the era of dinosaurs, it was the biggest, fastest dinosaur, with the sharpest claws and teeth, and the most heightened senses that dominated its environment. This isn’t the case today. There are many animals that have the strength and power to dominate over humanity. However, they lack one thing humans have—the intellect. Human intellect is the advantage that sets us apart from all other species. The question is, has our intellect been endowed to us by an intelligent designer who wishes for us to steward the ecology he has given us with humility and love? Or, has our intellect emerged from an undirected process for the purpose of our survival—that we can consume the resources around us, and once depleted, colonize another resource-rich environment?
I don’t have to spend much time developing how the philosophical system of creationism differs from evolution. God created humanity in an elevated place to care for and steward all creation. According to God’s special revelation, he has given us other virtues more important than the virtue of power, reserving power ultimately for his own stewardship, protecting us from its corrupting allure. God has communicated to us virtues like humility and love, imagination and passion, and he has given us moral virtues, which include justice and mercy. Every single one of these virtues are virtues that defy the system of evolution and make no sense within such a system.
In my view, these two systems are incompatible. As noble as the aim may be, I believe that it is futile for a creationist to identify himself of herself as a theistic evolutionist in the attempt to reconcile these two systems by embracing the language game of evolution and affirming 5 or 6 of its sine qua nons. Integrating these two systems is fruitless. A theistic evolutionist gains no ground by doing so. He or she will not find themselves at home with philosophical naturalists who embrace scientific evolution. The naturalist will always see the theistic evolutionist as a suspect superstitionist. It’s no different than how an evangelical sees a Mormon. Mormon’s may use the same language game but their language is loaded with an entirely different meaning.
On these grounds, it seems fitting to accept Scripture’s account of Genesis 1-2 at face value, believing that all flora and fauna, and the elevated role of humanity, is the result of the creative designer who spoke all of it into existence by the power of his word.
What’s at Stake
If we accept evolutionary theory as a viable interpretive framework for understanding the doctrine of creation, we step into dangerous ethical territory. You see, theistic evolution is an open system that invites a superior intelligence to direct the process of evolution. This premise is fine as long as that superior intelligence is God. But imagine for a moment that the unguided process of evolution became a guided process, and the guide for the process is not a benevolent creator with the attributes presented in Scripture. Rather, the guide for the future of evolution is us, the superior intellectual species, whom now has unlocked the human genome and has the capability to rewrite the code or improve the code to produce a superior being. This species, whose instinct is to consume and colonize, will preserve itself and the best of its kind by improving its own genetic code. This is the neo-evolution that Harvey Fineburg, former provost of Harvard (1997-2001) and former president of the Institute of Medicine (2002-2014), predicts.
It is not a matter of whether humanity has the power to do this. We already have the power. The question is, do we have the power to restrain ourselves from doing so. Scientists project that by 2045, they will not only have the power to evolve humanity through directed processes, but they will have the power to leverage an even more superior intellect than humanity. Perhaps by the 22nd century homo-sapiens, as we know them, will no longer be recognizably homo-sapiens. Rather, they will be something more like supra-sapiens. Perhaps our own intellect will be our undoing, and we will have self-selected ourselves out of the system giving way to a species of Transhumans who leverage computers, robotics, nano-technology, molecular transistors in order to extend life indefinitely, even if that life is nothing more than the memory of a consciousness that has been downloaded into a supercomputer control system.
A very important article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday April 18, 2017. The article is written by former Moody Bible Institute student, Meghan O’Gieblyn. Meghan, having become disillusioned by Christianity, found consonant hope with the emerging movement of Transhumanism as propogated by men like Ray Kurzweil, director of engineering at Google. She says:
What makes the transhumanist movement so seductive is that it promises to restore, through science, the transcendent hopes that science itself has obliterated. Transhumanists do not believe in the existence of a soul, but they are not strict materialists, either. Kurzweil claims he is a “patternist”, characterising consciousness as the result of biological processes, “a pattern of matter and energy that persists over time”. These patterns, which contain what we tend to think of as our identity, are currently running on physical hardware – the body – that will one day give out. But they can, at least in theory, be transferred onto supercomputers, robotic surrogates or human clones. A pattern, transhumanists would insist, is not the same as a soul. But it’s not difficult to see how it satisfies the same longing. At the very least, a pattern suggests that there is some essential core of our being that will survive and perhaps transcend the inevitable degradation of flesh.
She goes on to later say:
Transhumanism offered a vision of redemption without the thorny problems of divine justice. It was an evolutionary approach to eschatology, one in which humanity took it upon itself to bring about the final glorification of the body and could not be blamed if the path to redemption was messy or inefficient.
The union of humanity and technology seems inevitable, and it seems to be the inevitable next step of evolution. Please listen carefully. This step is a guided step of evolution, not an unguided step. It is a step that humanity should not only hesitate to step through, but we should insist on running from it in the other direction. The creature should not take on the role entitled only to the creator. Philosophical naturalists who adhere to scientific evolution cannot help but take that step. Their philosophical system built on the instinct for power and survival drives them to this inevitable conclusion. Creationism offers virtues that circumvent this threat.
I have sought to wager an argument on moral and ethical grounds. Those who are inclined to accept the warrant of evolution have no doubt done so based on empirical evidence alone. However, I am convinced that the criteria to receive a theory should not be built on evidence alone. Moral and ethical principles have to be taken into account. I believe that theistic evolution, with its guided understanding of evolution, regardless of the fact that the guide is God, does not safeguard humanity from taking that step. Rather, it seems to prime humanity for that step by logically affirming guided evolution. Fortunately, self-preservation is an admirable virtue of our intelligent species, and I am appealing to that virtue now.
There is better language to use in order to convey the reality by which the creator created the cosmos and everything in it, including us, the very capstone of his creativity. I believe that it is in humanity’s best interest to foster a community that articulates a doctrine of creation built on the language God gave us in Scripture. This language might well have been part of his divine program to protect us from our own intelligence.
 Adapted from Jerry A Coyne, Why Evolution is True (New York: Viking, 2009).
 Cf. Nick Bostrom, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2014.
 Cf. Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines (New York: Penguin Books, 1999).
 Meghan O’Gieblyn, “God in the Machine: My Strange Journey into Transhumanism,” accessed Friday June 23, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/18/god-in-the-machine-my-strange-journey-into-transhumanism.